Environmental

Environmental Protection Agency to Award $569 Million in Funding to Areas Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Environmental Protection Agency to Award $569 Million in Funding to Areas Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

 

 
The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced that will provide grants of $340 million to New York and $229 million to New Jersey for improvements to drinking water treatment facilities that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. These funds will help storm-ravaged communities in both states as they continue to rebuild and recover from the damage caused by the super storm on October 29th of last year. 
In the aftermath of the super storm, drinking water and wastewater treatment centers in New Jersey and New York were so badly damaged that some could not treat raw sewage or provide safe drinking water to their residents. The funding announcements will give states the ability to further reduce the risks of flood damage and increase the resilience of drinking water and wastewater facilities to withstand the effects of severe storms like Hurricane Sandy. 
 
“As communities continue to rebuild and recover following the storm, it is crucial that their efforts to rebuild infrastructures such as drinking water and wastewater facilities are approached in a sustainable manner,” said the EPA’s Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “This money is a crucial step in the administration’s ongoing effort to provide aid to New Jersey and New York so they can recover and move forward in a way that ensures local communities are stronger than ever.”
 
“As extreme weather is increasingly becoming the norm, the United States Congress wisely provided these funds to make sure our drinking water and wastewater facilities can withstand storms the size of Hurricane Sandy,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judit Enck. “These funds will help vulnerable communities in New York and New Jersey become more resilient to the effect of weather change.”
 
The funds will be offered as grants to New York and New Jersey and roughly 40 percent of the funds will provided to New Jersey for both the Drinking Water and Clean Water Revolving fund programs. The determination of how the funds will be allotted to the states was based on the percentage of the population living in counties that were impacted by the storm. 
 
The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act provided the Environmental Protection Agency with $500 million for Clean Water Revolving Fund and $100 million for the Drinking Water Fund. 
 
 
Source: Environmental Protection Agency

United Kingdom Reaches Landmark Energy Policy Agreement

United Kingdom Reaches Landmark Energy Policy Agreement

 

On November 23, 2012, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) reached a landmark decision to increase investor confidence and generate 250,000 jobs in the energy sector.  The decision, called the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) in the Energy Bill, will address electricity demands through low-carbon technologies in the United Kingdom as about 20 percent of the country’s generating capacity from conventional, carbon-based sources decrease over the next decade. 

The EMR hopes to give confidence to certain investors and create government contracts for about £110 billion in investments. 

The sections of the Energy Bill allow the following:

·   Create a government owned-company to give investors more confidence while investing in long-term contracts called “Contracts for Difference” for low-carbon electricity projects

·  Allows auctions for generating capacity from 2014 for the winter of 2018/2019 to make sure peak demand is addressed

·  Provides confidence to gas investors to make sure energy demands are addressed (Gas Generation Strategy published with Chancellor’s Autumn Statement)

·  Sets a target range for reducing carbon emissions by 2030

The UK’s Climate Change Committee will make suggestions in 2016 during the Fifth Carbon Budget to make sure target ranges are reached by 2030.  Until 2016, the government is providing tips to National Grid for different ways to reach lowered emissions ranges by 2030 and even reach target ranges by 2050 in the most economical way.  A sample approach for the UK 2050 carbon target is explained in the Fourth Carbon Budget. 

Edward Davey, the Energy and Climate Secretary, stated: “They [the Coalition Agreement decisions] will allow us to meet our legally binding carbon reduction and renewable energy obligations and will bring on the investment required to keep the lights on and bills affordable for consumers.” 

The decarbonization targets were set by the Climate Change Act of 2008.  Together with the decarbonization targets and government-issued contracts, about £9.8 billion in 2020 prices is set aside in the Levy Control Framework.  The budgeted investment by the government will decrease dependency on gas imports by establishing renewable energy.  By 2020, about 30 percent of the UK’s energy will come from renewables—compared to 11 percent in 2012.  The investment will also ensure power from new nuclear energy and commercialized carbon capture. 

Davey continued, “The decisions we’ve reached are true to the Coalition Agreement, they mean we can introduce the Energy Bill next week and have essential electricity market reforms up and running by 2014 as planned.”

The shift in public spending by the government, referred to as the Levy Control Framework (LCF), is the responsibility of the Treasury.  The spending meets energy and climate goals in line with economic recovery and the least impact on utility bills for consumers.

The spending does not include the ECO or the Warm Homes Discount in the UK.  These programs have separate spending limits for 2015. 

Source: Department of Energy & Climate Change

President Obama Responds to Devastating Tornados in Oklahoma

President Obama Responds to Devastating Tornados in Oklahoma

 

 
At least 24 people, including nine schoolchildren, were killed when a massive tornado hit an area outside Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon. 
 
At least seven of the children killed were students at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma. Emergency respondents today continued to sift through the school’s rubble in search of any survivors. 
 
The devastating tornado was 1.3 miles wide and move through Moore with winds that reached nearly 215 miles per hour. 
 
In response to the devastation, President Barack Obama told Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin that the administration, through FEMA, is committed to providing all the resources it can to the state of Oklahoma as the response effort unfolds. FEMA has already deployed an incident Management Assistance Team, a Medical Emergency Response Support Team and a number of Search & Rescue Teams to provide resources in those areas hit hardest by the natural disaster. 
 
FEMA is urging those in damaged areas to listen to instructions from their local school officials, and to take the recommended protective measures to stay safe. 
 
“Americans from every corner of this nation will be right here with the victims of this tragedy. We will open our homes and our hearts to those in need,” President Obama said. “We are a country that stands with our fellow citizens as long as the rebuilding process takes; we have seen this spirit in Joplin, in Tuscaloosa; and we saw this spirit in Breezy Point and Boston. This is what the people of Oklahoma are going to require from us right now.” 
 
As recovery and response efforts continue in Oklahoma, the United States Department of Homeland Security announced today that Secretary Janet Napolitano will travel to the devastated area tomorrow to meet with local and state officials to ensure first responders are receiving the resources they need to help those impacted by tornadoes. 
 
 
Source: whitehouse.gov

1.3 Million Cubic Yards Dredged from Hudson River

1.3 Million Cubic Yards Dredged from Hudson River


On November 13, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that the third consecutive season of dredging on the Hudson River was completed.  A total of 1.3 million cubic yards of sediment containing PCBs has been removed from the Hudson River so far.


The dredging began on May 9, 2012 after General Electric (with oversight form the EPA) removed 650,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment south of Fort Edward, New York.  The EPA is now half way to its goal of removing 2.65 million cubic yards of polluted sediment from 40 miles of the upper Hudson River.  


The EPA reports that approximately 1.3 million pounds of PCBs went into the Hudson River after they leaked from two General Electric manufacturing plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls.  


The EPA set strict standards during General Electric’s dredging.  The company could not allow more than 2 percent of the dredged PCB-contaminated sediment to stir and become suspended in the water.  The first series of measurements were conducted in Waterford.  Additionally, the EPA did not allow the company to suspend more than 1 percent of the contaminated sediment by the time the water reached Waterford.  Waterford is the farthest monitoring station downstream on the Hudson River.  


The company fulfilled a goal of letting no more than 11 percent of the project undergo capping as well.  General Electric’s seasonal cleanup only accounted for 5 percent capping in the contaminated area besides capping that could not be prevented.  


The dredged sediment is stored at the Fort Edward processing facility and shipped to authorized disposal facilities in other states.  The material will continue to be transported out-of-state by train until all of the sediment is removed from the Fort Edward processing plant.  


Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Fugitive Surrenders in Largest Eco-Terrorism Case

Fugitive Surrenders in Largest Eco-Terrorism Case


On November 29, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon announced that Rebecca Jeanette Rubin from Canada surrendered at the border in Blaine, Washington.  She faces conspiracy, federal arson, and destructive device charges throughout California, Colorado, and Oregon.  Her crimes are part of the largest eco-terrorism case in U.S. history, and she remained an international fugitive for more than 10 years.  


Rubin is charged with being part of a group that caused 20 arsons in five western states from 1996 to 2001.  The group was made of self-proclaimed members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).  The group attempted to cause environmental damage and fight against government, businesses, and the general public by engaging in violence, mass destruction, intimidation, and other forms of violent retaliation.  


Rubin faces state charges in Oregon for the November 30, 1997 and December 22, 1998 arsons at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Facility near the town of Burns in Harney County and the U.S. Forest Industries Inc offices in Medford.  She also faces a state charge in California for arson and using a destructive device at the BLM Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro Corrals on October 15, 2001 around Susanville, California.  


The eight federal charges are for an arson that destroyed the Two Elk Lodge and surrounding buildings in Eagle County, Colorado on November 30, 1997.  


A count of arson carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum of five years.  Using a destructive device carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of 30 years in prison, and conspiracy carries five years in prison.  


Since August 2007, 10 defendants in the same case have received sentences from 37 months to 156 months in prison.


Two of the defendants are still fugitives: Joseph Mahmoud Dibee and Josephine Sunshine Overaker.  


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Idaho Man Charged with Killing Protected Patas Monkey

Idaho Man Charged with Killing Protected Patas Monkey

 

On November 19, 2012, the Boise Police announced the arrest of Michael J. Watkins.  He is currently in custody of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Weiser, Idaho, and the monkey’s death is tied to a break-in and burglary at the Boise Zoo on the morning of November 17, 2012. 

Police were called to the Boise Zoo at 4:30 a.m. on November 17 because a guard spotted one man inside the zoo and another outside of the perimeter fence.  The two men fled as after they saw the security guard, and a search of the zoo proved the men fled. 

When officers and employees searched the zoo, they found a Patas monkey near the perimeter fence inside the zoo.  The monkey was severely injured with blunt force trauma to the head and neck, and it died within a short time after discovery. 

During the investigation, Boise Police found blood evidence and a baseball cap belonging to one of the suspects.  One of the suspects, Watkins, was arrested after the police used different pieces of evidence and tips from helpful citizens. 

The Charges against Watkins

Watkins is charged with two felonies: burglary and grand theft.

Burglary is defined under 18-1401 of the Idaho Statutes:

“Burglary defined. Every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse, or other building, tent, vessel, vehicle, trailer, airplane or railroad car, with intent to commit any theft or any felony, is guilty of burglary.” 

Grand theft is defined under 18-2407 of the Idaho Statutes, and the following subsection applies to Watkins:

18-2407(b)

“A person is guilty of grand theft when he commits a theft as defined in this chapter and when…

18-2407(b)(7)

The property taken or deliberately killed is livestock or any other animal exceeding one hundred fifty dollars ($150) in value.”

Why Patas Monkeys are Protected at Zoos

Patas monkeys are not endangered or threatened, but they are protected for several reasons.  For one, they are hunted in areas of Africa for their meat or because they’re damaging crops.  Additionally, the growth of cattle grazing in Africa and the increasing amount of farmland in the African savanna areas has seriously decreased the habitat for the Patas monkeys. 

Chief Michael Masterson with the Boise Police Department stated: “I speak for many of us in the police department and the community who were angered and outraged over this senseless crime. The loss of this Patas monkey has touched many lives, including our officers and investigators.”

Source: Boise Police Department

Natural Gas Company Pays $84,506 for Violations

Natural Gas Company Pays $84,506 for Violations


Natural gas companies continue to receive penalties and fines even though the majority of states have begun to impose strict policies for natural gas production.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest imposed penalties involve Atlas Resources LLC.  On October 18, 2012, the EPA announced that Atlas Resources must pay a fine of $84,506 for air and hazardous chemical violations at the natural gas production facility located in Avella, Pennsylvania.  


Atlas Resources is charged with violating the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) which is a federal law that requires responders to know about toxic chemicals in the surrounding communities.  Knowing about hazardous chemicals in the community helps responders plan for an emergency.  


Atlas Resources also violated the Clean Air Act by failing to take steps to decrease the accidental release of different hazardous chemicals.


According to the EPA, Atlas Resources failed to provide state and local responders of the hazardous chemicals on the production facility in both 2008 and 2009.  When the site was investigated, it was found that Atlas Resources was not storing the natural gas correctly onsite.  After testing, it was found the production wells were releasing vapors.  


The company was ordered to stop operations and the production of natural gas until audits are completed at eight other production facilities in Washington County.  The audits are checking to make sure the other facilities have the proper equipment installed to stop air releases.  


The Atlas Resources facilities that are being audited in Washington County are located in the Hopewell Township and Cross Creek Township.  The audits have adopted revised New Source Performance Standards as well as revised National Emission Standards that address the release of air pollutants.  


The majority of gas released during the extraction and production of natural gas is methane.  


Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Results of 2011 Certified Organic Production Survey Released

Results of 2011 Certified Organic Production Survey Released


The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently released the results of the 2011 Certified Organic Production Survey that measured and studied organic crops in different states.  The study helps the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) Risk Management Agency make changes to federal crop insurance products that are used by organic farmers.  


Hubert Hamer, the Chairperson of the NASS Agricultural Statistic Board, states: “This is the first time we have conducted a survey focused solely on the USDA-certified organic producers.  With this survey’s results, policymakers will be able to better assess the Federal Crop Insurance program and its impact on the organic industry.”  


According to the study, over $3.5 billion worth of organic products were grown in 2011.  Corn still leads in the organic industry, for about $101.5 million of organic corn was sold in 2011.  Other leaders in the organic industry included alfalfa dry hay and winter wheat.  About $69.5 million of organic alfalfa dry hay was sold in 2011, and about $54 million of organic winter wheat was sold.  


The state with the most organic acres is Wisconsin—with over 110,000 organic acres.  New York was second with over 97,000 acres of organic harvest, and California fell shortly behind New York with over 91,000 acres of organic harvest.  


The study also examined organically raised livestock.  Organically raised livestock generated $1.31 billion in sales in 2011, and organic milk was the top commodity, accounting for about $765 million in sales.  The other leading commodities in this category included organic chicken eggs and broiler chickens.  Organic chicken eggs generated about $276 million in sales, and organic broiler chickens generated about $115 million.  


Organic crops accounted for about 63 percent of all organic products.  Livestock and poultry products accounted for about 30 percent, and livestock and poultry inventory accounted for about 8 percent.  


Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Seven TN Water and Wastewater Taking Serious Initiatives

Seven TN Water and Wastewater Taking Serious Initiatives


On October 11, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced and recognized the initiatives of seven drinking water and waste water utilities throughout the state.  Some of the facilities have already begun improvements, and four of the utilities have already saved about 3,300,000 kilowatt hours and reduced 3200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.


The utilities and their estimated energy and cost savings per year are listed below:


-Caryville-Jacksboro Utilities Commission 188,000 kWh / $15,750
-City of Columbia 1,300,000 kWh / $100,000
-Fayetteville Public Utilities 517,000 kWh / $34,000
-City of Franklin 1,699,440 kWh / $194,000
-First Utility District of Knox County 710,000 kWh / $68,000
-Lenoir City Utilities Board 523,000 kWh / $42,000
-Nashville Metro Water Services 2,400,000 kWh / $210,000


The active improvements and the planned improvements will save more than 7 million kilowatt hours a year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 6,696 tons—a figure equivalent to bringing 1,190 cars off the road or providing power to about 739 homes.  Each facility is projected to save between $15,750 and $210,000 per year with an approximate combination of $633,750 in savings.  


The facilities now making improvements participated in assessments and workshops in order to determine how to reduce the overall amount of energy use.  Some of the facilities took simple initiatives like installing solar panels, while others made more sophisticated improvements like reducing the amount of UV disinfection and more.  


TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau stated, “Today’s gathering is a great example of how government partnerships can work together and we’ve been pleased to help provide these communities with energy efficiency tools, expertise and support for Tennessee’s water and wastewater utilities—assisting them in reducing costs and environmental pollution, while saving money and benefiting their ratepayers.”


Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
 

Finalized Cleanup Plan for Shenandoah Road Superfund Site

Finalized Cleanup Plan for Shenandoah Road Superfund Site


On October 16, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a finalized cleanup plan for polluted groundwater at the Shenandoah Road Ground Water Contamination Superfund site located in East Fishkill, New York.  


Industrial activities in the past have contaminated ground water on the site with tetrachloroethene (PCE), a volatile organic compound.  

The site was rented by Jack Manne, Inc. from 1965 to 1975.  The company cleaned and repaired computer chip racks that were supplied by the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).  PCE and other solvents were used in the process and placed in a septic tank and another pit on the property.  


During a random sampling of residential wells in 2000, the New York State Department of Health found that PCE levels were above the maximum federal and state levels.  The EPA immediately started providing bottled water to residents with contaminated wells, and the source of contamination was discovered shortly after.  


IBM was ordered to remove sources that contributed to the water contamination.  During the same year, IBM began a study for alternative water supplies to the affected residents.  The EPA eventually approved a plan to connect the residences to the Fishkill municipal water supply.  The connection was completed in March of 2009.  


The finalized cleanup plan will continue a process that extracts contaminated ground water and treats the water before it is released back into the ground.  The finalized plan will also rely on natural processes to decontaminate the water.  


The EPA will continue to sample the groundwater and measure the effectiveness of the finalized cleanup plan.  The EPA states that the use of certain land and ground water is still restricted.  


IBM will continue with the cleanup.  The project is estimated to cost about $2.7 million, and IBM has taken responsibility for the costs.  


Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency